I have finally pinpointed the source of my anxiety and depression, and am taking action to combat it.
In one hand is a trash bag, in the other, a donation box. Bring it on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Big Changes

I am discovering a major truth. When you make big changes in the area where you live, it makes big changes in how you live. Shocking, right?

So much in the past month has changed here! I am, of course, not done. I don't know that I ever will be "finished" on this path. I have made some serious strides, though. After suffering through a lot of frustration while working on my bedroom, I finally sent my kids to spend the day at my best friends house. My husband, Carl, and I were able to accomplish our goals within about five hours.

The shameful mess at the beginning. 

I have no idea how it ever got so bad. I am not, by nature, a dirty person. I've never been naturally immaculate, but I am... tidy. The piles of projects and boxes from storage were confined to our room, away from crazy toddler paws, and it just... grew. It's like you start with a small mess, and it builds on itself. If you never make any progress and things are continually added to it, it eventually becomes impossible to do anything with it. Then what's already there hinders progress, because piles are blocking where other piles would be "put away". Eventually it just.... implodes. This room is the reason I decided to start researching minimalism. I've been so busy with it, it's also the reason that I haven't updated in a month. It was time well spent.

We started by moving it all out of the bedroom and into the living room.

Carl preps the wall with a safety bracket and slides the new bookshelf into place.

Next we loaded up the shelves so that all the books wouldn't be in the way. I've moved them around a little since then, rearranging and editing. I ended up moving the yellow magazine holders into the dining room (I'll show you in a moment.) and I've put some more craft supplies up top.

Next we moved all the furniture back in, in our new arrangement. I even took the small (mostly unused) dresser from the boys' room and slipped it in. Even though there are still some boxes and piles to go through, and TWO more pieces of furniture, the room still feels more spacious. I don't know if it's the layout, or the fact that the piles are cut down to 1/3 what they used to be, but I'm digging it.


There's still a few bins that I need to go through, mostly decor and linens, and there's now a pile of boxes in the corner. I still haven't had a chance to completely go through my closet, though I've finished going through everything (of clothes) that was in storage. That's the bad news. 

The good news is that our apartment building is having a yard sale in two weeks, everything in the boxes in the corner is marked to be sold, and I have a garbage bag stuffed full of 99% of the clothes that were in storage, ready to be sold! My goal is to have gone through EVERYTHING by the yard sale! 

One major undertaking that I've accomplished, but you can't really tell from photos, is cleaning out the filing cabinet. I collected ALL the piles of paperwork from around the house, (the top of the computer desk in the living room is now clear!!) dumped out the files, and went to town. 

I had thought that I would need to invest in a taller cabinet, one that had four drawers. After going through everything, it all fit into one drawer! It's amazing how much crap was shoved in there. Now that there is more space in there, I'm planning on getting all of the photos and momentos from the "precious things" bin in storage. That way they'll be accessible and I can start working on putting together baby books and memory albums. I'm saving these things for that purpose, I should probably actually do it!


Our bedroom isn't the only place that has changed. I've been revisiting the kitchen and dining areas. Tweaking where things go, realizing that I don't use things, (A giant wok?? I forgot I even HAD that!) placing them aside for the yard sale, and slowly finding homes for things that used to live out on the counter.

The results?

Check out those counter tops!!
Whenever I go into the kitchen, I just want to trail my hands along the empty spaces. 
It's like it's just BEGGING to have food prepared on it! 
Cooking is so much more enjoyable when you're not working in the middle of a mess.

The container on the washer with the white powder? My own homemade laundry soap!

I don't love where the booster seat trays have ended up, on top of the microwave, but it's certainly tidier than the old solution: sitting on the counter top or dirty in the sink! I'm sure a better solution will occur to me sooner or later. (Eventually my youngest will just grow out of using them, I guess!)

The top of the fridge is clean and clutter free. I've managed to train myself to not just toss stuff up there when I'm not sure where it should go.

The old dish rack is chillin' in the corner. My Mom loves me and gave me a portable dishwasher for Christmas, so the rack hasn't seen much action. I'll still bust it out occasionally, when there's a large stock pot or something that I don't want to eat up space in a load of dishes. The turquoise bin is where we stash our bread. Then we have my thrift-store finds, a 70's chic glass fruit bowl, and a cutesy-utsey mushroom cookie jar. (Which is currently empty. Sadness.)

I've also taken the time to clean up the top of the pantries. 
You may remember the hot mess they were from my early entry Operation: Pantry.

Having these supplies tidied and streamlined has not
only made it easier on the eye, but it's so much easier to use! 

The binder has loose paper for free-coloring and practicing shapes. Behind the coloring supplies are poster boards, held tidy with a chip clip. All of the crayons and chalk are contained and easy to find, as are the coloring books and home making magazines.

The smaller vases are tucked back behind the smaller cook books, and everything is organized and clean. I've even tucked a notepad up there, which I've started using to jot down meal and recipe ideas.

Last, we have the shelves in the kitchen and dining room.

The shelf in the kitchen is where I've allowed myself to display a few kitschy, cluttery things. I still feel like it's too much, so I'm sure I'll be editing and switching things out. 

The artwork that's up there is inherited, so I don't necessarily LOVE it, but it's working for me. I'd rather have something I sort-of like, at this stage, than no art. I look forward to the day when I can walk into my home and only see things that I LOVE.

Here is the shelf in the dining room! It used to be absolutely covered in junk, and I'd constantly find myself dumping mail up there. Keeping it clean means that there's somewhere for Carl to put his wallet and sunglasses when he gets home each day from work.

Well, now that I have overloaded you with photos, I'll be on my merry little way. I have a lot to accomplish in the next two weeks, before the yard sale. I need to go through the rest of my clothes and my bathroom. There's a few more areas that I considered sharing photos of with you (the game closet, the linen closet) but I'll save those for another day. I need to start updating more frequently so that it doesn't all pile up like this! (Funny, how it's not that different from keeping a home clean!) 

I hope you are inspired to minimize and streamline your own living space. If I can make such strides toward a tidier and more enjoyable existence, then I guarantee that anybody can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stop the Junk

I'm finding that living the life of a minimalist is not as easy as I thought it would be. I am having no problem getting rid of stuff, which is where I thought I would struggle... it's the not bringing more IN.

It doesn't matter how many times you purge, organize, shuffle things from container to container. If you are not being a good "gate keeper" (as Francine Jay puts it in The Joy of Less) then there is NO POINT to all of your efforts.

For example. A few days ago, I found a stack of junk mail lurking in my kitchen, and I gleefully pitched it all in the trashcan. Weee! Get outta my apartment, crusty junk! This filled up the trashcan, so I did my duty and dragged the stinky plastic monstrosity out to the dumpster. On the way inside, I stopped by the mailbox, grabbed the mail, and absentmindedly set it down on the counter before strolling off to do other things.

Now... wait a minute. What was the point of that?? I didn't accomplish anything, not really. Yes, I kept it from getting worse, but I didn't improve the quality. It's the same as it was before I "purged" the junk mail. I was still letting junk take up residence in my home.

Granted, this is a very superficial example, but it's the easiest to explain. I've been really struggling with telling myself "no" with impulse buys. It's strange, because I thought that I was a very frugal and reasonable shopper. The sad thing, is that I sort of am... in comparison to many of the people around me. Yet I'm often coming home with doohickys and deedads, flyers, free samples, and bits of this n' that, not to mention TRASH.

I'm thinking of putting a little note in my wallet, something to remind me to think twice before swiping that card. For that matter I should post a little plaque on my front door: JUNK NOT WELCOME.

 p.s. Receive a lot of "pre-approved" credit card offers? You should go visit www.optoutprescreen.com! It's offered for free through the credit bureaus. It can not only help keep junk out of your box, but help you to prevent yourself (OR OTHERS!) from opening up credit cards and dinging your credit and home with unnecessary purchases.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Baby Steps

Hello friends! I'm still here, slowly chipping away at the mountain. I have decided to challenge myself to a one-a-day accomplishment. I'm going to throw away or donate at least one thing every day!

It's not as daunting as it sounds. My one thing a day could be a stack of junk mail, old left-overs in the fridge, an expired and forgotten tube of mascara hiding under the sink, you get the idea.

I am not limiting myself to one thing every day, if I get on a roll then I'll just go with it, but I want to keep myself thinking along a stream-lined path on a daily basis.

Here's what I have been up to this past week (plus).

I have resumed my ongoing battle with my closet. I've managed to clean out a few shelves, I've pulled the bins fabric from the top, and cleared out some of the hangers. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting closer. A lot of these clothes that are left are still ones that I don't wear. Although they are the right "size", they don't fit right. I was wearing "Junior" styles when I was last this small. I've had two kids since then, I've got woman curves!

The problem is that if I just get rid of everything, there won't be anything left. I'm slowly trying to replace and upgrade my wardrobe. One good thing in, one less desirable thing out.  (The interesting blue and white pattern you see is a hand-me-down wrap dress from my grandmother. I'm still trying to decide whether I love it or not. Maybe I'll take a photo of me in it and let you decide!)

My little boys have also been "helping". I have a few boxes filled with things to donate, so I let sit them on the bed and go through those while I work.

William, my one year old, likes to lay in the clothes. Gregory, my two year old, thinks it's funny to try them on.

The day I took these photos I had just put a bunch of books into the box. The majority of them were the "obvious" donation books. (Cheap romance and YA fiction.) A lot of them have photos of horses, which excited Gregory. I love how he just cuddled in and started "reading", looking for the photos at the top of each chapter.

Things I found and kicked to the curb....

An old sewing machine that no longer works, lurking in the back of my closet under some shoes.

An expired and unneeded car seat. This photo was after I'd cut the straps. (To prevent unwitting dumpster divers from endangering their children with a car seat that is expired, which means the plastic has become brittle and dangerous in the event of an accident.)

WHAT is this, hiding under my desk??

Frickin' Baby Walker!??
This belongs to my dad. My baby hasn't used it in over six months, maybe more.
WHYYY is it still hiding out in my bedroom??
This needs to be returned. Pronto.

I'm hoping to start updating more often, especially with my One-A-Day efforts. I also have a reader-requested post in the works, about small kitchen appliances, so stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kitchen Cupboards

After my previous (self imposed) humiliation, I decided that I should get my butt in gear. My bedroom may be an overwhelming and daunting task, but my kitchen is only slightly cluttered. (And for those who know me and were a little shocked at the bedroom: Yes, there IS a reason why the bedroom is such a black pit: My kids. It's the only place where I can shut the door and not have my boys get into and thrash EVERYTHING, and I'm afraid I take advantage of that fact far too often.)

But I digress... the kitchen. I devoted an hour to it last night, and I was able to go through three cupboards and three drawers. I started by eliminating our extra sets of dishes. I decided to keep the white (seating for four) and the yellow (seating for 6). They weren't in the best shape, (as they have a few chips) but they were the most complete sets and I like the colors. (There are a few missing in the photo, since these were taken just after dinner.)

We also decided that we only really need one set of glasses, so we are ditching the random blue glasses. They have a tendency to break anyway, (and were from my husband's bachelor days, along with the blue dishes) so there were only a handful left. (There's only a portion of them in the photo since there were a bunch currently being washed. You may also notice a cute little pumpkin candy dish... which for some reason never made it back into the Halloween decorations. It's now chillin' out in my room *shudder*, along with some trick-or-treating buckets and Easter baskets.) 

Because we made space in the cupboards, I was able to move our plastic toddler plates, bottles, sippy cups, and turquoise plastic "picnic" gear all into the same cupboard. Now all of our dinnerware can be found in the same place!

Because I moved items over from another cupboard, I decided to tackle it and the three drawers below it next. I started by moving the remaining baby gear out of the cupboard. Tiny bowls, formula/cheerio containers, and those little mesh teethers that are meant for feeding babies cold fruit. (I love those things.) This stuff hadn't been used in months, so there isn't really much sense for keeping it handy. I've started a box of things to go into storage, with the rest of the baby items. 

 Then I pulled everything out of the cupboards and drawers. 
YEESH. There's stuff in there that I had completely forgotten we had!!

I decided to start with the simplest AND most frightening area: THE JUNK DRAWER. 
(Dun, dun, dunnnn.)

I tossed all the garbage, old batteries and random sauce packets, put the candles together in a zip-lock baggie, and tidied up the drawer. I had forgotten that there was a calculator in there! Handy.
Next came the task of choosing which measuring cup and spoon sets to keep. I have quite a few other measuring tools, so it's not as though I need two sets of these. 
My husband prefers the red cups (as evidenced by a few being dirty at the time of photo) and the metal spoons are rusting and not food quality. I've decided to keep the unwanted ones for now, because I want to try out making my own laundry detergent. Once I find the recipe I like, I'll keep what I need for making it and toss the rest. :)
Here's the completed "measuring" shelf. I have two nice Pampered Chef wet/dry measuring devices, and the one with the tilted side (for more accurate pouring) is great for holding the spoons and medicine syringes. I also have a set of nesting glass Pyrex cups, which I love. 
Those two glass containers are Pampered Chef prep bowls, which I had forgotten I even had! Those things are really useful when cooking from scratch. I never would have found them if I hadn't cleaned out my drawers. 
Next I tackled what I've started to think of as the "sharp" shelf. My Pampered Chef chopper made the cut, as well as the super-fine grater. The large metal grater in back was one that I purchased a while ago to replace a broken grater (which for some reason was still chillin' in the drawer- what gives?) and the two items on the right are the blades I pulled out of the Food Processor. Ever since our two year old mastered the child latches, I've been wary of him being hurt on those, so why not put them up high?

The bin contains smaller items, like corn on the cob holders, a pizza wheel, zester, garlic press, veggie and potato peelers, can opener, cork screw... etc. All those fun pokey sharp things!

I would have liked to put my mandolin up there as well, but it was just too long to stand up or lay down on any of the shelves. 

Now there's a whole empty shelf!
Whatever will I DO with it??

(And yeah, I know, the painting and laminate job on these is pretty terrible. It's a rental, what can I say? The good news is, I have permission to spruce it up, so hopefully this summer I'll be scraping up the sticky stuff and repainting!)

At this point I dove head first into the two remaining drawers and my spatula vase. 

Drawer number one contains serving utensils. Salad claws, spreading knives, the ladel and pie server, tongs, etc. I also decided to put the pot strainer in there, so it would be handy next to the stove.

Drawer number two features cooking supplies. Rubber spatulas, the rolling pin, whisks, things like that. I was even able to fit my Kitchenaid Hand Mixer in there! The baggie tucked in the back has the icing piping bag and its various tips. 

I did manage to whittle down my cooking spoons and spatulas in the vase by quite a bit, surprisingly enough. I know, you're shocked. That thing used to be overflowing, though. I'm going to keep track of what I use, and get rid of any extras by the end of the month. I tend to use the bamboo more for serving, so I'll likely move them into the drawer... I guess it's still a work in progress.

A handful of the rejects. A melted spatula, busted up cheese grater, rusty ladle...

All in all, I'm really pleased with what I accomplished. I keep looking in the wrong places for things, but once I get over the initial "oh, yeah" moment, it's all so much easier to find. I'm not digging through drawers and I'm not reaching past the stuff that I don't actually want! Score.